5 Training Games for Puppy Classes

5 Training Games for Puppy Classes

Everyone loves good puppy classes. Cute, fluffy, little bundles of fur with their stinky breath and corn chip smelling feet. Most students come to class already having begun the basic behaviors. While those are important and key to any dog training class here are a few training games to incorporate into class to strengthen those basic behaviors while having fun.


Image via Bessey's Positive Paws recall games

Image via Bessey’s Positive Paws

5 Fun Games to Play During Puppy Classes

Crazy to Calm

When the bait bag and clicker come out those puppies line right up in front of their owners and pay close attention to what is being asked. They stay calm and attentive and excel at learning behaviors. What’s happening though, is that the pups aren’t learning how to still do those behaviors when they are amped up. Crazy to calm does just that. Play with the puppy for a set amount of time, jazzing them up to a level where they are rowdy but not completely out of control. After the time is up, stop playing and wait for the pup to calm down and ideally offer a sit. It is okay when your puppy is new to this game to cue them to sit the first few times but ultimately we want them to be able to offer it on their own. If we cue too much our dogs begin to rely on us to tell them what to do in any given situation, whereas when we allow them to offer the behavior it becomes more reliable.

Once your puppy is calm and sitting you will continue to reward your pup for staying put. Then you will release him with “Free.”  Always remember to release your puppy when done. Crazy to calm will help teach impulse control, stay, and how to quickly calm themselves in excitable situations.

Puppy Ping Pong

Majority of owners will prioritize the behaviors they want their puppy to learn with coming when called being first, if not second to walking on leash. Puppy ping pong is a great game to play to build a knee jerk reaction to hearing their name and running towards their owner. The game can include 2 or more people. Each person will have a handful of delicious meaty high value treats. One at a time someone will call the puppy, be very exciting and happy to encourage the puppy to run fast towards them. Once the puppy reaches the person calling they will touch the dog’s collar and then reward with the meaty treat. Encourage clients to give 1 to 3 treats, one at a time to avoid having a puppy dine and dash (knowing they will only receive one treat, grab it and run off to the next person). Stress the importance of being able to touch the dog’s collar because it can save the dogs life. A recall is no good if you can’t actually get a hold of the dog if you are alongside a busy road.

Have another person call the puppy and reward the same way. The puppy will run back and forth between the people playing learning that coming when called results in fun and that he gets delicious stinky treats.

Catch Me If You Can

Another game to strengthen the recall and to help with leash walking. When a puppy has something he shouldn’t or doesn’t come when we call, we move towards him to get him. With a puppy this often prompts a fun game of chase. How extremely annoying for the owner. Catch Me If You Can turns the table on the puppy and teaches him it is more fun to catch up to us than to be pursued. In a safe space or with your puppy on leash move away from him encouraging him to follow you. When he moves in your direction you stop, let him catch you, mark it and reward with high value treats. While the puppy is eating the treat move away again in another direction, encourage him to move after you. Mark and treat. The point of stopping before the puppy actually catches up is to prevent having a puppy bite at pant legs or jump at the person running.

Pass the Puppy

Who doesn’t love to cuddle a puppy. Have the trainer take one puppy away from their owner. Have the person who is without a puppy move and take the puppy to their right and so on until everyone has someone else’s puppy. Pass the puppy is great for socializing the puppy and have them get used to other people handling them in a positive environment. People handling can ask for a simple behavior, give treats and just play.

Hide and Seek

If you have equipment in the training room or places where the owner can go out of sight, hide and seek is a good game to play to help with recalls. This game teaches dogs that they need to listen to their handlers as much as look for them. It encourages owners to stay upbeat and pushes their dogs to find them because recalls aren’t always as easy as saying “Come” and then quietly standing by for the dog to find them.

I like to remind clients that everything we teach our puppy is a trick but to us we take some more serious than others. Playing these games will help take those serious behaviors and keep them fun for us and our pups and make them strong, reliable behaviors.

Do you have other games you play in puppy classes?

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